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Food and Your Mood: The Similarities Between Diabetes and Depression

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You might only suffer from depression on a seasonal basis. Maybe you've noticed that lately your moods and your energy levels are all over the place. It's easy to assume that these changes are psychological, but sometimes they can be physical! Many people who are diagnosed with diabetes say that their first clue that something was wrong wasn't the chronic thirst or frequent restroom trips; it was that they seemed to have very little control over their moods anymore.

Whatever the case”whether you're diabetic, hypoglycemic or suffering from a psychological problem, experts agree: what you eat can have a direct effect on your mood and your brain chemistry. This is why it is important, especially when you are suffering from depression, not to skip meals or try to subsist on a diet consisting solely of junky or comfort foods.

If you've never really studied nutrition before, figuring out what to eat and when can be a huge hassle. It's especially problematic for diabetics, some of whom have to follow very strict nutritional schedules to stay healthy”and even then, it's confusing! You're supposed to eat some things when your blood sugar is high and some things when your blood sugar is low. You have to make sure to get X amount of this vitamin, Y amount of that and you're only supposed to get it from natural sources, not supplements. It's confusing enough to potentially make your depression worse and, if you're diabetic”it could wreak havoc with your physical health.

So here are a few basic things that you should know before you try to map out your daily diet:

1. Blood Sugar

First of all, people who suffer from diabetes aren't the only people whose blood sugar needs to be regulated. When you're dealing with mood issues, paying attention to your blood sugar is really important.

When your blood sugar is too high you'll typically feel headachy, tired, and overly thirsty. You might feel the need to visit the restroom more than usual and your vision could get blurry. To bring your blood sugar down, try drinking some water and eating a couple tablespoons of peanut butter (either by itself or on apple slices–don't put it on bread).

When your blood sugar is too low, you'll probably start to feel confused or anxious, you might feel shaky or sweaty (or both) and your mouth might feel tingly. To raise your blood sugar, eat some fruit or cereal or, if you're desperate, a couple pieces of candy.

If you notice that your mood swings a lot during the day, your blood sugar could be the culprit. It's possible you might be hypoglycemic or even diabetic. Diabetics have found that working with continuous glucose monitoring systems helps them anticipate and ward off problems a lot easier than periodic testing alone.

Even if you don't find yourself with a physical diagnosis, using periodic testing (talk to your doctor) could go a long way toward helping you figure out whether or not what you're eating (or skipping as the case may be) is playing an active role in your depression.

2. Your Meals

After a diabetes diagnosis, you know how important it is to eat every meal on time every day, even when you aren't particularly hungry. When you're fighting depression, it is also important that you not to skip meals, even when the last thing you want to do is eat. Remember: if you don't eat, your blood sugar is going to get out of whack and that will make you feel worse. So, make sure you eat at least three meals and a couple of small snacks each day. Eat things that you know are healthy”even in the beginning.

As you learn about nutrition and what your body needs, you can better plot these out. For now, stay away from candy and cookies and stick to foods you know to be good for you.

3. Brain Boosting Foods

Obviously you're going to want to follow the food pyramid in terms of your basic nutrition. If you've been diagnosed with diabetes or hypoglycemia, your doctor probably set you up with some basic menus and guides to help you get on track while you figure out which foods should be eaten and when.

Remember: when you're dealing with depression, protein really matters. Egg yolks, fish, nuts and seeds, all of these have a stabilizing effect on your blood sugar and give your brain enough protein to help it stay focused and alert. If you're vegetarian or vegan, talk to a doctor or nutritionist about healthy ways to increase your protein intake without meat or eggs.

Try not to get frustrated if it takes you a few weeks get your blood sugar and nutritional needs under control. While you're figuring out exact numbers, work with your doctor, try to get enough sleep each night and avoid caffeine. Don't worry, you'll get there!